The Producers is very much a show that relies on a couple of star performances. Max (James Studds) and Leo (Andrew Stott) have enormous energy, confidence and charisma as the eponymous Producers. Studds is just a little short in the sleaze department to really convince as a Broadway producer – but his bravura performance of ‘Betrayed’ in the second act was a real show-stopping moment. Stott has a great likeability and warmth as a performer which helps the audience engage with the comic chaos of the plot.
All too often the orchestra at a musical only gets a mention when mistakes are made. Here I am happy to report that they are, probably, the best non-professional pit band I have had the pleasure to hear. Chris Payne brought out all of the humour in the score and kept the music flowing at a pleasingly brisk pace.
My main concern with the production is with the larger chorus scenes. I have noted with a number of previous Oxford Operatic productions that the chorus is very numerous and gets a lot of stage time. In many ways, this is very commendable. However it does mean that the stage is often over-full – leading to a lack of clarity in the action and a rather fussy overall result.
Technically, the production has had a lot of attention lavished on it. The sets and costumes are everything that you might wish for. The sound balance was, however, less than ideal at times – with lyrics and dialogue being lost from time to time. It may be that the venue is partly at fault here – having experienced similar problems when reviewing professional musicals in the New Theatre.
Overall, this is a show packed with ambition and heart. It is not perfect but it is a damned good try. The audience on Friday night were clearly loving it – so the hard work has clearly paid off.